On December 1, 1977, a truly strange bird took flight for the first time in the skies over a desolate corner of Nevada. Looking more like a giant faceted gemstone than something designed to lift-off, the aircraft (nicknamed the “Hopeless Diamond”) had been flown out to Groom Lake in parts aboard a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.
While much of the Hopeless Diamond was a conglomeration of spare parts from other existing aircraft, it was the first of a new breed—the progenitor of Stealth. Hopeless Diamond was the first of two technology demonstrators built for a program called “Have Blue,” an initiative program spawned from a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency effort to create an aircraft that could evade the Soviet Union’s increasingly sophisticated integrated air defense systems.
Forty years have passed since the Have Blue project’s two demonstrator aircraft—built on a relative shoestring budget by Lockheed’s Skunk Works—flew over the Nevada desert and ushered in a new era. Over time, the engineering, physics, and mathematics that created the Have Blue prototypes would be refined to create the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter and serve as the basis for the designs of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
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